In my article series on What Are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (click to read Part One and Part Two) I’ve gone through the details on what endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are, their actions and severe effects on our health. In this blog post I’ll give you a guide to how to avoid EDCs in your everyday life.
Recap On How Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Enter Our Body
We ingest EDCs via the food we eat, absorb them through our skin and inhale them. So, obviously, these three pathways are where we can minimize our exposure.
1) Avoid Pesticides – Eat Organic
On the surface of conventional fruits and vegetables is a thin layer of pesticides residue. Pesticides have a variety of depressingly severe effects on our health (to mention a few):
- They are known to be carcinogenic (e.g. prostate and thyroid cancer)
- developmental disorders such as ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)
- cause infertility
- cause non-descending testicles (cryptorchidism) and penile malformations (hypospadias)
The best way to minimize your intake of pesticides is simply to eat organic. Below are the European and Danish Organic labels. Tooting our own horn; Denmark was the first country in the world to launch state authorized and state-controlled organic farming and labelling, and we’ve been doing so for the past 25 years.
Find organic food labels from different contries here http://www.organic-bio.com/en/labels/
2) Process your own food
Many types of processed foods often contain artificial preservatives to prevent flowers of mold and colonies of bacteria growing e.g. in your favorite ready-made pasta sauce. Some of the preservatives, however, are known to be endocrine disrupting.
For instance parabens are used in meat products, snacks, chips, coated nuts and candy. Look for E214, E215, E218 and E219 or ethyl- and methyl-p-hydroxybenzoat on the list of ingredients.[1,2]
The artificial antioxidant BHA (E 320) and BHT (E 321) are also used as preservatives in chewing gum and even pharmaceuticals.
To avoid these kinds of EDCs roll up your sleeves and start baking, canning and cooking your own (organic) food.
3) Choose food containers wisely
Plasticizers such as phthalates and bisphenol A are found in plastic food packaging, toys, food containers and lining the cans of canned food.To avoid these plasticizers buy food and groceries stored in glas, ceramic or cardboard cartons and eat fresh (organic) food instead of canned food. Store your food in plastic containers made for food storage – often labeled with a little knife and fork symbol. Remember to throw out old and scratched food containers.
Fluorinated substances are both endocrine disrupting and carcinogenic (= substances and exposures that can lead to cancer). They are used in pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags and baking parchment paper to create a non-stick surface and to make sure the grease doesn’t soak through. So don’t eat the pizza out of the box (that’s what plates are for), pop your own popcorn and bake your own cakes using ecolabeled baking paper.
4) Choose Eco-Labeled Products
Labeling can be just as misleading and confusing (when used for commercial interest) as they can be informative and guiding. But I trust two labels when it comes to eco-labeling. They help me navigate through skincare, haircare products and cleaning detergents when I’m shopping in my local grocery store.
The Nordic Ecolabel (Svanemærket) is widely used in Scandinavia regarding everything from personal care products to household goods, cleaning products and e.g. paint. When a product carries this label it guarantees that the product doesn’t contain carcinogenic, mutagenic, reproductive toxic or allergenic substances. The Nordic Ecolabel also have strict environmental requirements when it comes to the lifecycle of the product: from assessment of raw materials, production processes, use, disposal and recycling.
The EU Ecolabel is the European counterpart of The Nordic Ecolabel. You can read more about it here http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecolabel/eu-ecolabel-for-consumers.html
These labels can guide you to avoid electronics, textiles and furniture containing EDCs such as brominated flame retardants.
5) Seek Guidance Using Apps
If you want to avoid EDCs in your makeup, skincare and haircare product the following apps will be your friend. Several apps, e.g. Danish app Kemiluppen (translates to The Chemistry Magnifying Glass) and the Finish app CosmEthics, have been developed to guide us consumers in the jungle of ingredients used in personal care products.
These apps are based on the same principles: You scan the barcode or search the name of the product. The app will then tell you whether your particular product contains EDCs. If the product you are looking up doesn’t exist in the app, then you just take a picture of the barcode, the ingredient list and the front of the product for it to be analysed.
One of the things I like the most about these apps, is how they allow you to see the list of ingredients, highlighting the ingredients of concern. This way I’m able to learn and memorize the names of EDCs to avoid.
The only downside to these apps are their layout. For some reason it’s a common feature that the interface (listing pictures of the products) looks a bit messy, which sometimes can make it difficult to find exactly the product you’re looking for. My advice: be patient, you’ll find what you’re looking for eventually.
Read my in-depth review of the two apps with links to download in my blog post Apps That Can Help You Avoid Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
Hope you found these five tips useful! Are you aware of EDCs in your everyday life and how do you try to minimize your exposure? Leave me a comment!
XO Cæcilie Johansen, medical docotor, Denmark